Thursday, February 21, 2008

It's time to party

I've been hearing a lot about "How to Vote" or "How to Choose Your MP" in the run-up to the coming general elections on 8 March.

My stand is that we have no choice but to vote based on the party, not the candidate. This is the unfortunate state of affairs in Malaysian politics. The system is like that. There is no room for independent voice in the parties. MPs are all subservient to their party leaders. They are nominated by party leaders, not by the people. So if you want your MP to speak out against the establishment, it has to be an Opposition MP. Forget about open debates a la US Presidential election campaigns. This is not Obama vs Clinton. This is BN vs Opposition.

Even if you vote a "good guy" into the BN, he/she still has to follow the party stand. So, if you like BN, then vote for a BN candidate. But if you don't like BN, then vote for an Opposition candidate. (But please don't do a sissy thing such as casting a spoilt vote.) I do not believe there's any hope for a "good guy" to make a change from within BN -- just look at people like Loh Seng Kok or Shahrir Abd Samad or Bernard Dompok or K Devamany. They speak out a little bit too much and *Wham!* they get clobbered back into their little pigeonhole. They are totally constrained by the system.

Sure, some of you will say that the Malaysian way is to resolve issues quietly and behind closed doors. But I also know that a lot of corruption and monkey business goes on behind closed doors.

Another major problem with the Malaysian political system is that too many voters judge an MP's performance based on minor and trivial matters like fixing broken street lights or clearing clogged drains. For goodness' sake, that is the job of a municipal councillor, not a Member of Parliament. This problem is compounded because some MPs or state assemblymen are also appointed as municipal councillors.

But I certainly expect an MP to operate at a higher level, not bogged down by local issues. An MP should be debating national and international issues like global warming, or human rights, or religious freedom, or education policy, or foreign investment, or global competitiveness, or free trade, or oil prices, etc. Instead, the MPs spend their time picking up litter, cutting ribbons, giving boring speeches and toeing the line. Sure, they "serve the people", but this is not the type of service I'm looking for.

The Malaysian political system is not perfect. In fact, it kinda sucks. So until such time as the system changes, voting a parliamentary candidate based on his "performance" will not make much difference. It's time to vote the party.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

CNY 2008

This is a bit late, but at least it's still before Chap Goh Meh. I don't have the energy nor time to ramble like last year's CNY. So I shall let the pictures do the talking.

OK, maybe some short notes will suffice...

1. Traffic back to Ipoh was good on Wednesday. It was like normal, 110 km/h all the way.

2. No captainball this year. Instead we had rounders. My team lost, despite me hitting two *ahem* home runs.

3. Didn't climb Keledang Hill this time. No time. No motivation.

4. We went white water rafting at Sg. Kampar. The water level was low due to the dry season, thus the rapids were not as wild and challenging. But we still had some excitement, like,
my uncle nearly fell out of the raft. It was fun hearing all the screams and squeals from people like my mom as we went tumbling over the rapids. :)

5. The lunches and dinners prepared by the cousins seems to be working well. The aunties are much more relaxed, having passed on the stress to the younger generation, although supervision is still necessary. :P

6. Some of us went bowling at Ipoh Parade, again. Yay. I got my highest ever score in living memory... 137. I could have scored higher if not for the dismal score of only 3 in the final frame.

7. The mini sermon during the family thanksgiving service was on "What is new for you this year?" based on Isaiah 43. My uncle noted that this year is the first year after the Jubilee of 2007. So it is a time of new beginnings, both symbolically and literally.

This is what the LORD says...

"Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland."

Victory dance

Pristine Sungai Kampar

Ipoh slugger

Sunset swing

One for the album

More pictures here and here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Aqueous Parliamentarius

Parliament has been dissolved, paving the way for the 12th General Election.

Our chance to use this "proper channel" to speak up has finally come.

It's time to teach the corrupt and incompetent BN politicians a lesson.

BN's two-thirds majority must not be allowed to continue.

Vote for Opposition. Make the change.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I love coral reefs

Steven Spielberg should be thoroughly spanked for creating the Jaws movies and demonizing sharks and instilling a phobia of the deep sea in a whole generation of people. Some of that damage was repaired through recent cartoon movies like Finding Nemo which romanticized marine life and made the reef fish look so cute. I thought that would make people want to protect the marine ecosystem even more. But, the spotlight on coral reefs may have actually worked against the reefs' favour, for the increased attention and popularity of marine fish increased the demand for marine aquariums.

Yes, marine aquariums are a threat to the world's coral reefs and marine ecosystem. I just came back from my neighbourhood aquarium shop where I went to buy some fish food for my mom's guppies. I knew for many years that the shop existed. But only today I discovered to my horror that this shop was specialized in marine fish.

The shop had rows and rows of tanks filled with all types of marine species. They probably had half of the number of species in our National Aquarium. There were moral eels, ribbon eels, stonefish, lionfish, parrotfish, bannerfish, Moorish idols, dotty backs, gobies, blue-spotted rays, bamboo sharks, seahorses, pufferfish, anemonefish, surgeonfish, damselfish, remoras, angelfish, octopus, hard corals, soft corals, anemones, giant clams, etc. I even saw nudibranchs (Hyselodoris apolegma and Phyllidia sp.) and little shrimps.

Now, I have a thing against private marine aquariums.

Here's why:

1. Marine aquariums are very delicate systems that are a man-made attempt to replicate the natural saltwater environment of the sea. Marine aquariums are much more difficult to maintain than freshwater aquariums. The fine balance of salt, ammonia and minerals in seawater has to be maintained 24/7. I don't think most people have the commitment to maintain their saltwater aquarium for the long-term. As a result, the fish they buy will not live long and just become another sad case.

2. Marine aquariums should be kept only by those who have the resources to maintain them, i.e. public aquariums, hotels, shopping malls and serious hobbyists who are willing to spend hours maintaining the tanks, pumps and filters. However, who among us part-time petkeepers is willing to devote such time and money? In most cases, the fish will just die and we soon forget them. How sad.

3. Marine aquariums rely on fish harvested from the wild. This is hardly regulated, and results in overharvesting and depletion of the natural stocks. I noticed that most of the fish sold in the shop were juveniles, which means they do not have a chance to reproduce. When you kill off the children, you're basically killing off entire future generations. No wonder there are less and less fish in our marine parks like Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian.

4. Harvesting of marine species for aquariums reduces the opportunities for tourists to see them in the wild. That's a dent to the tourism industry. Of course, tourism itself also harms the environment, but that's another story.

5. Mortality rates of marine aquarium fish are high, because we're trying to sustain their life in an artificial environment. At the shop, I saw a worker casually scoop out a dead lionfish from the tank and dump it in the rubbish bin.

6. The trade of certain protected species is regulated by international law. In case you didn't know, laws are not made to be broken, nor rules to be broken. And, ignorance is not bliss.

7. The survival and health of the marine ecosystem and coral reefs directly and indirectly impacts our own health. Our fish comes from the seas. Coral reefs are fish breeding and feeding grounds. If we kill off the fish, we kill off our own food supply.

I almost thought of boycotting that shop, but I still bought the little bottle of fish pellets which cost RM4.50. I'll save my battle for another day. Maybe I'm just biased, but I prefer to see marine life in their natural habitat.

But if you're into marine aquariums, you must ask the shopkeeper where the supply of fish and corals come from. Ideally, make sure it's only from sustainable, farmed sources, and not from the wild. But if it's from the the wild, make sure they have a permit for it.